Don “Jeep” Heffner was Tony Lazzeri’s primary back-up at second base during the final years of “Poosh Em Up’s” Hall of Fame career in New York. The only Major League player ever to be born in Rouzerville, PA, Heffner made a decent big league debut with the Yankees in 1934, appearing in 72 games and averaging .261 for a Joe McCarthy-led team that won 94 games that year but still finished second to Mickey Cochrane’s powerful Detroit Tiger ball club.
That turned out to be Heffner’s best offensive season in pinstripes but he stuck around in the Bronx long enough to win championship rings in both 1936 and ’37. When an aging Lazzeri was let go by New York after the ’37 season, Hefner’s weak bat removed him from consideration for the vacant starting job. Instead, he was traded to the Browns for a better hitting second baseman named Bill Knickerbocker.
Heffner spent the next four seasons starting at second for St. Louis while Knickerbocker lost the battle for the Yankees’ starting second base job to rookie Joe Gordon. Heffner continued playing in the big leagues until 1943 and then got into coaching and managing. In 1966, he skippered the Cincinnati Reds for 83 games, his only big league managerial position.
|SLB (6 yrs)||524||2039||1803||196||434||73||9||6||179||13||193||162||.241||.317||.301||.618|
|NYY (4 yrs)||161||586||526||62||135||19||10||0||60||2||54||43||.257||.326||.331||.657|
|PHA (1 yr)||52||198||178||17||37||6||0||0||8||3||18||12||.208||.284||.242||.526|
|DET (1 yr)||6||24||19||0||4||1||0||0||1||0||5||1||.211||.375||.263||.638|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant hit 27 home runs in just his second full big league season in 1970 and he also led the Royals that same year with 99 RBIs. After slumping the following season he was traded to the Angels in 1972. A versatile player, in ’73 he started 49 games at third for California, 47 in right field and 32 at first base. Toward the end of the 1974 regular season the Angels traded this native of Shreveport, Louisiana to the Orioles and during the subsequent Winter Meetings, Yankee GM Gabe Paul purchased his contract from Baltimore. The rumor circulating in the press at the time was that Paul was about to trade away Graig Nettles and he wanted Oliver to take over from “Puff” as the Yankee starting third baseman. Fortunately, it was only a rumor because although he was just 31 years old at the time, Oliver’s career was practically over. He hit just .158 during his 18 games in pinstripes and was released by New York at the 1975 All Star break. Nettles of course remained a Yankee and was an outstanding run producer and defensive force at the hot corner for two World Championship teams.
|KCR (4 yrs)||422||1550||1442||168||367||46||13||49||200||9||79||300||.255||.296||.406||.702|
|CAL (3 yrs)||395||1512||1412||120||370||53||6||45||214||7||76||248||.262||.301||.404||.705|
|PIT (1 yr)||3||2||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||18||39||38||3||5||1||0||0||1||0||1||9||.132||.154||.158||.312|
|BAL (1 yr)||9||20||20||1||3||2||0||0||4||1||0||5||.150||.150||.250||.400|
Fritz Peterson, who was born on this date in Chicago in 1942, was a lot of different people rolled into one pinstriped uniform. I guess first off, he was a very talented left-handed starting pitcher who won 20 games for the 1970 Yankees, won 109 games during his nine seasons in New York, pitched over 1,800 innings, threw eighteen shutouts and compiled an impressive 3.10 ERA for a string of Yankee teams that were not exactly known for their offensive or defensive prowess. He loved pitching in “the House that Ruth built” and I was surprised to discover that he had the lowest career Yankee Stadium ERA (2.52) of any pitcher on New York’s illustrious all-time roster.
Fritz was also one of the whackiest guys in the Yankee clubhouse. His first Yankee roommate, Jim Bouton once confessed to Peterson that he pitched better when he was really nervous about something. Before Bouton’s next start, Fritz walked up to him and told him that if New York didn’t win the game, Bouton’s infant son was going to die.
Peterson was super intelligent and after retiring from the game, he became a devout born again minister and sometimes insurance salesman. Regardless,in spite of all his accomplishments on the field and all of the wild and diversified things he did off of it, the first thing about Fritzie that comes to mind for Yankee fans like me who remember watching Peterson pitch will always be the wife swap he and fellow Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich made during the 1973 preseason. I’d never seen anything like it happen to a Yankee team before and I doubt very much I will ever see a similar exchange take place among Yankee teammates again.
|NYY (9 yrs)||109||106||.507||3.10||288||265||9||81||18||1||1857.1||1796||747||640||139||332||893||1.146|
|CLE (3 yrs)||23||25||.479||4.34||63||63||0||9||2||0||346.0||400||193||167||34||87||118||1.408|
|TEX (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.60||4||2||0||0||0||0||15.0||21||7||6||0||7||4||1.867|